The weather will also have been a gentleman on this tennis Thursday in Marrakesh, for the round of 16 of the Grand Prix Hassan II, but the same cannot be said of time in the sense of passing hours, at least on the central court. 3 games in the decisive set, all marathons or almost, with the last one ending which saw the surprise of the tournament, and probably of the week in general: Alex Molcan Slovakian southpaw number 65 in the world, has beaten 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7) number 1 in seeding and number 9 in the world Felix Auger-Aliassime, in a match that requires difficulty even just to be explained. From start to finish he was at the mercy, for the most part, of the whims of the Canadian, who conceded (too few) lights and (too many) shadows by committing trivial mistakes and overcoming the double figures of double faults. On the other side of the net, the Slovakian has the merit of having served very well and always tried to vary and move the opponent, with his game that seemed made on purpose today to break the FAA one. So the bad period continues for Felix, who after an excellent start to the season (quarter-finals in Melbourne, victory in Rotterdam and final in Marseille) loses the third of the last 4 games (only victory against the home wild card Benchetrit), having made his debut in both Sunshine Double tournaments, always appearing in confusion, as we have seen again today.
The match- start sprint for Molcan, who already in the third game manages to take home the break, taking advantage of the opponent’s crooked moons, who up to 4-3 and service for the Slovak appears in clear difficulty, but there he turns on the light bulb: he finds a some confidence, he goes to recover the break at 0, building and waiting for the mistakes that come from the Slovak, even a bit unlucky. Not bad, because it follows a sensational empty passage of the number 1 of the seeding: a double fault and 2 unforced errors quite sensational, only a winning backhand by Molcan, who for his part plays well and with patience, exploiting the lack of propensity for the land of the opponent. And the first set ends surprisingly, that is with Molcan going to close 6-4, even in a daring way: from 0-40 he manages to go up again with courage and aided by Auger’s mistakes (but great damping on the first), and then also cancel a fourth break point, and he could always have made more number 9 in the world. He serves decentralized to get a first winner that is worth a set point, immediately finalized, at the first chance. So the forecast for now partially overturned, which confirms two things already known: Auger-Aliassime has to work hard on the ground and contain his mistakes, Alex Molcan with the right motivations and concentrated can be a very difficult customer. He is good at varying often, very well at the service.
At the beginning of the second set the Canadian immediately risks, who with 2 double fouls and an unforced one sends Molcan to break point: he finds his service when needed, and also a little more certainty from the bottom to get out. Felix is obliged to run the serve, so far missed, to win this match. Interlocutory game then for Molcan, service at 15, which with the first is a sentence today, especially when he has to open the field or put in a position not to play the Canadian, who just can’t find his tennis. He then finds the Rotterdam ATP champion a comfortable game, with good feelings at the service and hitting well from the bottom, but he must give continuity to situations like this. Suddenly, like a godsend, an empty pass by the Slovak arrives in the fourth game: but Auger starts well in thrust, and on the fifth point he commands the exchange and finds the winner, arriving at the break ball, on which the Slovak blatantly gives a double fault and the advantage to the Canadian who, to be honest, struggles enough to confirm the break in his turn of service, also canceling a ball of the counterbreak, caused by a double fault and an error. But once again, ground-breaking service and quality without being foul saves it. He must find safety as the number 9 in the world, the Slovakian is continuing his honest game, but the opponent is returning. Auger-Aliassime closes the second set clearly for 6-2, in response, forcing mistakes by the Slovakian and finding a much higher level of play, for the whole set, which clearly shifts the balance of the game towards him, he just has to find concentration and fewer errors.
The decisive set opens with a bang: break ball in the second game for the FAA, canceled with a winning serve by Molcan, who today rarely did not make his presence felt in the important moments, dispelling the tension, and then taking home the game by playing well from the bottom and varying. Then here is Auger-Aliassime’s patatrac: two consecutive errors followed by winners, the first two break points for the Slovak who does not finalize; at the fourth, obtained with a poisonous slice that leads to the Canadian losing control of the forehand, Felix continues his series of mistakes and gives the break to Molcan, who without doing anything exceptional finds himself in the lead again. This time, however, Lady Luck smiles at the number 9 in the world, who goes back from 30-15, building great points and finding depth and power, to then exploit a dampened net on the break ball; the feeling is that the Slovakian is exploiting mistakes when they arrive, but he is no longer able to build very much. The news is that the typical straight one-two serve of tds # 1 seems to be starting to give responses and trust; in fact, the Canadian has the opportunity to snatch it, playing a game of light and shadow, where Molcan only a couple of times expresses his tennis as he would like; Auger does not dare on the first break ball, the Slovakian’s service and brave forehand on the second, who once again manages to get away with it.
This is followed by one of the best games of the tds n.1 match, which holds at 0 with the last two points to be framed: narrow straight, and closing with smash in retreat to the rebound first, then I attack and embroider almost on my knees. He then keeps Molcan at 15, in a game in which he could have taken the net and closed the Canadian, too shy, on at least 2 points. Then follows another game in which you do not play on Felix’s serve who, even if perhaps with a little too much calm, finally seems to have found solidity in the serve, which in any case can be fundamental in a possible tie break, which goes to ensure. On his part, the Slovakian just has to continue to argue and believe in it as he did throughout the match, which is now more of nerves than of play. In the twelfth game the match point arrives for Auger-Aliassime, who wastes badly by losing control of the forehand, and from there he almost seems to pull the plug on arrival at the tie-break, which to be honest is a small repetition of the long lived psychodrama throughout the match: mini-breaks granted and reciprocated, with extreme exchanges and truly admirable plays, especially on match points: on 6-5 the Canadian cancels one with a winning forehand, and is then repaid with the same coin on the 7-6 after a grueling exchange from Molcan. The Slovakian will close 9 points to 7, bringing home a strange match, albeit full of technical ideas and adrenaline, once again thanking FAA: gross error in the exit with the forehand (his usual pattern), which unfortunately was one of the many in his match, where he paid for an almost “chronic” lack of concentration. In any case, there are the merits of Alex Molcan, who from the beginning to the end countered and kept the Canadian at bay, certainly making sure that he played badly, with a mocking and varied left-handed game. He will face, in the quarter-finals, Botic van de Zandschulpthe Dutch who is starting to fly, execute today easily with a 6-1 6-4 from Vit Kopriva. It will undoubtedly be an interesting match, which sees (even for the greater rest) the tds n.6 slightly favored, but Molcan certainly has his aces to play.
For a top 10 who greets (the only one present) it is right to report the victories of two former top 10, which great tennis have, for different reasons, only been able to caress, but today have shown that they can still have their say when they want. . Species David Goffincollapsed to an incredible ranking of 74 in the world, which he tamed, hitting the victory number 300 in his career, in almost three hours 5-7 7-6 (4) 6-3 Pablo Andujar, one who on earth always knows how to have his say. But the Belgian today seemed at times to recall those traits of his tennis of generosity and running that led him into the clouds of the tennis sky, now that he is in the meanders of the mountains and would like to go back to where he is most appropriate. He finds himself again almost a year after the defeat with Evans to Montecarlo which was the beginning of the end, a quarter-final in the circuit the Belgian, where he will face the Spaniard in a probable other marathon Roberto Carballes Baena. The other fallen noble we mentioned at the beginning is Richard Gasquet, who is now spending the last pennies of a career that will remain embedded in “who knows if …”, the phrase that has always distinguished him and his splendid reverse. But despite this the French managed to impose himself, in just under 2 hours, against Pavel Kotovwith the score of 6-3 3-6 6-3, actually playing fast enough to be on clay. He will face tomorrow in the quarterfinals Federico Coriaa player with certainly more attitude to the land and greater resistance at the moment, but never underestimate Richard Gasquet too much, even if tomorrow he will have to ask his tennis for a feat to beat the Argentine.